Medicine and Morals
A man wonders if his dying father should remain on life support.
What would you do?
A parent wonders if they should tell their child he has a potentially serious genetic disorder.
What would you do?
A woman wonders if she’s morally obligated to give a kidney to her cousin who has to undergo dialysis daily.
What would you do?
Chances are, like most people, you don’t know what you would do - or even where you would turn for guidance. But with medicine’s increasing role in our lives, most of us will have to face such issues at some point or another.
That’s why you’ll want to know about a remarkable new course called Medicine and Morals: Your Jewish Guide through Life’s Tough Decisions. It’s based on two premises: (1) that Jewish wisdom has much to say about these matters; and (2) that the best time to deal with them is now, while the pressure is off.
Actually, there’s a third premise: that today's complex medical issues are fascinating, profound, and likely to kick up amazingly lively classroom discussion.
No easy questions. No easy answers. Medicine and Morals, is your chance to get real with the subject of medical ethics - discuss actual case histories, and get a sense of direction to weather the toughest challenges you’ll ever face.
Lesson 1 Choosing Life: The Obligation to Seek Treatment
This lesson examines Jewish perspectives on pursuing medical care, as well as declining it. Is it ever acceptable, or even preferable, to simply rely on faith, prayer, and one’s own resources? How does Judaism justify medical intervention? And is it an obligation or a choice? May other family members force us to seek treatment that we do not want? This lesson examines the ethics of issues involving patient autonomy within the modern health care system.
Lesson 2 Flesh of My Flesh: Organ Transplants in Jewish Law
Hundreds of thousands of people find their lives hanging in the balance as they hope for the gift of life in the form of a vital organ such as a heart, lung, or kidney. By receiving an organ, they are literally given a new lease on life. Yet there is a tremendous shortage of available organs. Does Jewish law allow the donation of organs, either from a live donor or one who is recently deceased? Do we have the authority to give a body part away? Might it go further, actively encouraging or even morally compelling one to donate under certain circumstances? This lesson provides a nuanced and compassionate look at the sensitive ethical issues governing organ donation.
Lesson 3 Rolling the Dice: Risky and Experimental Treatments
Often, people with rare or incurable illnesses consider untested experimental treatment, gambling that they will be cured. May one participate in an experimental treatment with no guarantee of success that also has the danger of shortening life? Can we define the allowable odds? Do our personal preferences and values hold any weight? And does the same hold true for children? Does it matter that participating in this experimental treatment will provide important knowledge that will be helpful in curing others?
Lesson 4 New Beginnings: The Ethics of Reproductive Technologies
Many couples struggle with infertility. In their efforts to bear a child, they are often cast into the complicated ethical web of the new reproductive technologies, many of which call into question the very definition of a parent. In the age of sperm donation, egg donation, and surrogacy, can a child have more than two parents? How does Judaism look at “designer babies”? Can we pre-select the gender of the child to match parent preferences or to prevent genetic illnesses? How far must one go in the quest for biological children, and what recourse is there for those who are unable to bear children of their own?
Lesson 5 With You In Mind: Ethical Treatment of the Mentally Disabled
The mentally ill have often been viewed in society as possessed by the devil, or otherwise evil. Jewish law, however, has long recognized this as a disease, and acknowledges both the limitations of responsibility that this state imposes, as well as the essential humanity of the mentally ill. Jewish law recognizes that there may well be islands of ability at the same time that limitations exist. It encourages the maximum participation possible of those with mental illnesses, while outlining the role the community must play in protecting their interests. The lesson also considers the integration of individuals who may suffer from mental retardation, and the value of engaging them actively in Jewish life.
Lesson 6 Secret Code: Genetics and the Ethics of Patient Confidentiality
A basic presumption of modern medical practice is that patients have a right for their medical history to be kept confidential unless they explicitly waive those rights. What happens, however, when those records contain information that might impact other family members? Do children have the right to know they are carriers of a particular disease, or may the parent keep that information private? This lesson looks at some ways of balancing the harm to the individual whose privacy is invaded against the need to provide family members with vital health information.
"As our society continues to struggle with thorny and complex medical issues, from end of life, to health care, to abortion, the Rohr Jewish Learning Institute has come forward with a fascinating course that will shed light on these key questions, and provides students of all ages with the all-important Torah perspective."
The Hon. Tevi D. Troy, PhD
Former Deputy Secretary, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Washington, DC
"The JLI course on Medicine and Morals provides a clear description of Jewish law as it relates to ethical dilemmas in medicine. As the number of observant Jewish patients increases, and as other religious groups develop greater sophistication in merging their beliefs with medical decision making, this course provides important information for medical practitioners."
Alan H. Kadish, MD
President and Chief Executive Officer, Touro College and University, New York, NY
"Medicine and Morals applies Jewish medical ethics to some of the most salient moral issues in medicine today, from organ donation to assisted reproduction, research with children, and patient confidentiality. No participant in this course can fail to be stimulated by what our tradition has to say about these issues."
Paul S. Appelbaum, MD
Director, Division of Law, Ethics & Psychiatry, Columbia University, New York, NY
"The Rohr JLI curriculum on Medicine and Morals discusses many of the most relevant and fascinating current medical ethics issues from a Jewish religious and secular viewpoint. It will be of great help to doctors, patients and their families."
Kenneth Prager, MD, FACP
Director, Clinical Ethics, Chairman, Medical Ethics Committee, Columbia University Medical Center, New York, NY
"I congratulate the Jewish Learning Institute for their work in educating the community about the issues of infertility and assisted reproduction with regard to Jewish Medical Ethics. Enhancing knowledge will contribute towards patients having more comfort with treatment options and towards the medical community gaining a better understanding of religious patients and more sensitivity to their concerns. Improving awareness will undoubtedly translate into more couples realizing their dreams of having a family."
Alan B. Copperman, MD
Director, Division of Reproductive Endocrinology, Vice-Chairman, Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Science, Mount Sinai Medical Center, New York, NY
"Over the past two years I have examined much of the material prepared for courses offered at the Rohr Jewish Learning Institute. This material has uniformly been of high caliber and of meaningful intellectual weight. Additionally, the course books are aesthetically attractive. I recommend without reservation their use, particularly by persons who are in the major professions and in business."
Marvin Schick, PhD
Founder, National Jewish Commission on Law and Public Affairs (COLPA), Liaison to the Jewish Community under NYC Mayor John V. Lindsay, New York, NY
"I am most impressed with the course on Jewish medical ethics, Medicine and Morals. As the title suggests these two topics should and must go hand in hand, not only to treat our patients but to understand them too. The topics are right in line with modern day realities, but put an important time and Torah honored perspective that will help the health care provider see these issues in a different, helpful and more appropriate light."
Robert Kliegman, MD
Professor and Chair, Department of Pediatrics, Medical College of Wisconsin, Executive Vice President, The Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, WI
"The content is truly unique, yet obviously relevant to the issues facing physicians daily."
John Jane, Sr., MD
Chair, Department of Neurological Surgery, University of Virginia Health System, Charlottesville, VA
"The Medicine and Morals course provides an important grounding in the halachic approach to a variety of thorny issues confronting medicine today. For those looking for an overview of traditional rabbinical thinking in these issues, the course seems ideal."
Paul Root Wolpe, PhD
Director, Center for Ethics, Emory University, Atlanta, GA
"The course gives a thoroughly researched and well-explained tutorial on Jewish law and organ donation. It is an excellent review of the issues and enormously intellectually stimulating."
Sally Satel, MD
U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, Recipient of a gratuitous organ donation, Washington, DC
"As a practicing critical care physician, I draw on my Jewish ethical training cross culturally and have found it helpful in my discussions with my non-Jewish patients as well."
Dr. Joel B. Zivot, MD, FRCPC
Medical Director, Cardio-thoracic Intensive Care Unit, Winnipeg Regional Health Authority, Winnipeg, Canada
"These materials place some of the most urgent contemporary problems of medical ethics into the context of one of the world’s oldest and most sophisticated ethical systems. Not only practicing Jews will find value in studying the issues presented in this program. Anyone who needs to grapple with the practical and policy dimensions of modern medical practice and delivery will profit from the work of the Rohr Jewish Learning Institute."
Daniel D. Polsby, JD
Dean and Professor of Law, George Mason University School of Law, Arlington, VA
"Jewish philosophy and ethics has from its origin, and will continue in the future to engage with and influence medical thought and practice. The opportunity to showcase this intimate relationship through the JLI course Medicine and Morals is a source of great pride."
Natan Bar-Chama, MD
Director Male Reproductive Medicine and Surgery, The Mount Sinai School of Medicine, New York, NY
"I came to Rabbi Pink’s lecture to learn about the Jewish perspective and learnt about medical issues as well."
Clinical Director of Renal Medicine, University Hospital of Birmingham Foundation NHS Trust, Birmingham, England
"Medicine and Morals-Your Jewish Guide Through Life’s Tough Decisions is the premier initial offering of the Touro College Continuing Professional Development Institute and JLI. JLI aspires to be the preeminent provider of adult Jewish learning, and continues to set new standards in the field. Its numerous offerings are superior. This new curriculum on Jewish medical ethics will enable health care professionals to be informed by the insights of our sages. Physicians will be better prepared to confront the tough issues facing modern medicine. I enthusiastically endorse this new academic partnership."
Dr. Steven Huberman
Dean, Graduate School of Social Work, Touro College and University, New York, NY
"I am very impressed with the topics covered in the course Medicine and Morals. The class covers some of the most critical issues in law, medicine and religion, and I applaud your efforts to expand learning in this area. Thank you for your fine contributions."
Professor of Law, University of Arkansas, Commissioner on the Arkansas Commission for Newborn Umbilical Cord Blood Bank Initiative, Little Rock, AR
"The course in Jewish Medical Ethics offered by the Rohr Jewish Learning Institute is a fascinating and engaging tour of the subject. Dealing with a variety of the most compelling questions including: refusing medical treatment, organ donation, and assisted reproduction, the course juxtaposes the current trends in secular law as embodied in recent cases with traditional Jewish views on the same questions. The questions and materials used to illustrate and educate are well chosen."
Lloyd R. Cohen, PhD, JD
Professor of Law, George Mason University School of Law
Author of “Transplant Organs,” The Encyclopedia of Law and Society, Arlington, VA
"The course clearly incorporates all the key themes of modern medicine and the ethical challenges that we face. The course will enable a greater understanding of how Jewish medical ethics can make a distinctive contribution to modern medicine. The course comes at a time where scientific advancements are producing increasing numbers of ethical dilemmas. There is a great need for people to think through these issues and be equipped to make choices. I am delighted that such a course has been developed and wish it every success."
June Jones, PhD, MSc
Senior Lecturer in Biomedical Ethics, University of Birmingham, Birmingham, England
"I support these excellent seminars in Jewish Medical Ethics developed by Rabbi Pink. They are of great value both clinically and academically."
Anthony D. Hockley (OBM), FRCS, LLM
Neurosurgeon, Queen Elizabeth Hospital and Birmingham Children’s Hospital, Birmingham, England
"An interesting course and an important area for dissemination of information."
Jeffery Klein, MD
Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility Specialist, Reproductive Medicine Associates of New York, White Plains, NY
"Science and technology advance at such a rapid pace that we often don’t stop to understand the implications of medical breakthroughs. Through the lens of Jewish law and perspective, Medicine and Morals brings a framework of understanding to some of the most difficult medical ethics questions we face."
Bradley W. Kesser, MD
Department of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery, University of Virginia Health System, Charlottesville, VA
"With the advent of new technology and treatment modalities, the physician and communities of today need guidance from several sources with regard to the ethical and moral issues of caring for our patients. The Rohr Jewish Learning Institute has gathered many professionals from the clergy and the non-clergy to shed light on these complicated issues. Our Acharonim and Rishonim have debated these issues in the Talmud and through compilation of laws in Shulchan Aruch, have guided us in these difficult matters. I congratulate the Rohr Jewish Learning Institute for undertaking this immense task to illuminate light on these complex issues. The Institute has my good wishes and full support for this most worthwhile project."
Avi Pandey, MD, FACS, PC
Associate Director, Department of Ophthalmology, Queens Hospital Center, Queens, NY
"Recent advances in clinical knowledge and technology enable solutions that, until not long ago, remained in the imaginary realm. However, do we have the Halachic answers to questions arising from these cutting-edge, never-before available, clinical solutions? Maimonides would be very proud of this promising JLI Medicine and Morals course."
Gill Heart, PhD
Former Commanding Officer, Special Forces Israel Defense Force, Director, Mind in Control, Atlanta, GA
"I am a pulmonary and critical care physician who deals with the type of ethical areas that you highlight. I am impressed with your simple but insightful approach. The subjects that you bring forward reflect significant problems that we encounter commonly. The discussion is a ‘must read’ for all in medicine."
Mark J. Rumbak, MD
Pulmonary Critical Care Physician, Tampa, FL
"As a pediatrician, the necessity of education in the field of medical ethics is all too real for me. It is clear that a thorough and multi-faceted approach to these questions is vital. I applaud the Rohr Jewish Learning Institute on their new course, Medicine and Morals."
Rachel D. Rosenbaum, MD
Doctor of Pediatrics, Bristol-Myers Squibb Children’s Hospital at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital, New Brunswick, NJ
"As a physician I find myself in the trenches of medical ethics. I frequently turn to my friends, colleagues, and senior faculty for insight as well as shoulders to lean on. I appreciate a course that recognizes that Jewish and secular medical ethics often, but not universally concur. It is an asset to me that there exists education which balances the medical and Jewish perspectives on these difficult questions of ethics."
Rachel Kassel, MD, PhD
Doctor of Pediatrics, St. Louis Children’s Hospital, Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis, MO
"As we face new issues in the field of medical ethics, it is important to remember that the human element is present in all of these questions. The Rohr Jewish Learning Institute’s new course Medicine and Morals explores medical ethics from not only a legal and medical perspective, but also the 3000-year-old Jewish tradition. By examining these contemporary questions through the lens of an ethical framework that has guided people for centuries, we can strive to treat our fellow human beings with the utmost standard of morality."
Stephen Rozenberg, OD
Doctor of Optometry and Homeopathic Medicine, Queens, NY